Dear brothers and sisters,
Such is the importance of the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, that the Church even celebrates his conception, as we do today on the Patristic Calendar.
Within the unfolding of the history of salvation, as determined and willed by Almighty God, and revealed by the prophets, St John’s life and ministry was a necessary prelude to the Incarnation, the Saviour’s earthly life, the preaching of the Gospel, and His voluntary and life-giving cross, passion, death and resurrection.
Through the prophets, God had announced that the herald and teacher of repentance would prepare the way for the Messiah, and in this feast of his conception we celebrate the very beginning of the life of the “Friend of the Bridegroom”, and this feast reinforces the moral and spiritual truth:
HUMAN LIFE BEGINS AT CONCEPTION…
That small cluster of human cells within the womb of the righteous Elizabeth, was not impersonal and arbitrary, but the very human life that would be the herald of our salvation. He – not it – already had an identity and already had the God-chosen name that St Zachariah would write on a tablet and that every generation would celebrate before all other men.
“HIS NAME IS JOHN”.
Wishing you a blessed and holy feast, with the hope that you will be able do something to honour the Forerunner, such as chanting a canon or akathist – or simply turning to him in prayer with your own words.
Holy, glorious Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, John, pray to God for us.
May God bless you.
In Christ – Fr Mark
The holy Prophet Malachi prophesied that before the Messiah’s birth His Forerunner would appear, and would indicate His coming. The Jews therefore in awaiting the Messiah also awaited the appearance of His Forerunner.
In a city of the hills of Judea in the land of Palestine lived the righteous priest Saint Zachariah and his wife Saint Elizabeth, zealously observing the commandments of the Lord. The couple, however, had a misfortune: they remained childless in their old age, and they prayed unceasingly to God to grant them a child.
Once, when Saint Zachariah took his turn as priest at the Temple of Jerusalem, he went into the Sanctuary to offer incense. Going behind the veil of the Sanctuary, he beheld an angel of God standing at the right side of the altar of incense.
Saint Zachariah was astonished and halted in fear, but the angel said to him, “Fear not, Zachariah, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.” But Zachariah did not believe the words of the heavenly messenger, and then the angel said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you the good news. Behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words….”
Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zachariah and they were astonished that he had not come out from the Sanctuary after so long a time. And when he did come out, he was supposed to pronounce a blessing upon the people, but could not do so because he had been struck speechless. When Zachariah explained by gestures that he was unable to speak, the people then understood that he had experienced a vision. The prophecy of the Archangel was fulfilled, and Righteous Elizabeth was delivered from her barrenness, and gave birth to John, the Forerunner and Baptist of the Lord.